Jesus, Lord of the Dance

Jerusalem was a scene of celebration as the Ark of the Covenant was carried into the city.  King David led the way accompanied by the sound of  shouting and the blowing of trumpets.  He was so excited his emotions could not be contained;  his entire body demonstrated his joy.

He danced before the Lord with all his might. 2 Samuel 6:14

We don’t know what his dance looked like so we must use our imaginations.  In my mind’s eye I see the bright sun shining down on David.  Drenched with sweat, he twists and spins. Arms wave in the air as his body moves with abandon.  Muscular legs push off the ground to jump and leap with exuberance.   It doesn’t look like a carefully choreographed dance, but rather a high-energy, spontaneous outpouring of movement.  David is rejoicing!

I think that a famous 20th century educator may have understood David’s desire to dance that day. Henrietta Mears, a well-known Christian educator, had a passion for teaching children about Jesus.  As the teacher of literally thousands of children, she had great insight into their make-up.  She famously observed, “God put the wiggle in children. Don’t you dare try to take it out!”   I totally agree with her, but would add that it isn’t just kids who have the wiggles.  Who has never seen an adult wiggler?  When I put on a Frank Sinatra CD for residents in the nursing home where I work, I immediately see toes start to tap and heads to bob. The best toe-tapping, head bobbing resident of all is 95 years old.  These bodies of ours were made to move.   This God-given tendency cannot be suppressed even during Sunday morning worship services.  Despite the limitations of space, bodies start to sway to the music, hips feel the beat, hands clap, arms are lifted in praise.  It isn’t just our minds that want to worship; like King David, our bodies are designed to offer praise.

When I was young I had years of dance lessons.  Tap, ballet, jazz and pointe.   Unlike David’s wild dance before the Lord, the dance routines my class did were carefully choreographed.  It was important for each dancer to do their assigned part just right as one misstep could throw off the entire class.

As I thought about David dancing before the Lord with all his might, and then considered the subtle dance movements during Sunday morning worship,  I began to think about the local church in a different way.  The Bible tell us that the church is like a body, and each member of the church is like a different part of the body.   And I contend that the Body of Christ is designed to move, to dance!

It seems to me that David’s passionate dance before the Lord, combined with my carefully choreographed childhood dance routines,  is reminiscent of the way the local church moves.  It is as though the church is a dance class for whom God has choreographed an amazing  routine.  It is our role as the dancers to do the part of the dance assigned to us.  If we could look down, as God does, we would see how each one of us is busy dancing our part, hopefully with exuberance and passion, using all our skill to dance well.  We may cross paths with other dancers during the week, or we may find ourselves doing what seems to be a solo. We don’t see how all of the parts fit together, but the Choreographer does.

And then on Sunday, the music from the dance of the week fades away and we gather back in His house, tired and thirsty, for a time of rest.  We quiet ourselves to hear from Him and drink the refreshment offered by His Spirit.  After spending time in His presence we find we have been re-energized.  We burst out of the church doors once again ready to dance with all our might before the Lord, keeping in step with the choreographed dance that He has designed for each of us.

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he.

Refrain from ‘Lord of the Dance’ by Sydney Carter, 1963.

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One thought on “Jesus, Lord of the Dance

  1. Great post, as always. I couldn’t help thinking that my denomination’s history of worship has been much more restrained than the picture you paint so aptly of David. In fact, as a child and teen, I was not allowed to dance, since it was not considered a Christian activity. Thank goodness we seem to have gotten beyond that for the most part, but our worship remains more restrained than some. We been teaching Sunday School to pre-schoolers at an inner city church (and yes, they are GREAT wigglers) every other week, so on those weeks we worship with our relatively restrained home church and then head to the city and participate in the first part of worship with our city brothers and sisters—almost exclusively Hispanic, African American and lots of Sudanese immigrants. The contrast is delightful. I always feel so blessed to be a part of those vibrant, expressive worshipers. They are truly free to simply respond to God and be themselves.
    BTW, I love the picture you have posted at the top of your blog. Did you take it, and if so, where?

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